Monday, June 7, 2010

On Egypt, Part II: Adventures in Customer Service

I got up early in the morning, headed downstairs to reception and handed over a laundry bag.
- Could you get this washed for me, please?
- No problem, sir. It'll be ready this evening or tomorrow morning.
I expressed my preference for 'this evening' and went off diving. Diving was nice, we saw dolphins

I'd never seen a dolphin diving before

Some beautiful corals too

I returned to the hotel. I inquired about the state of my laundry. Frenetic usage of cell phones ensued. 'You are in room 105?' 'No...' 'You left the laundry in your room?' 'No...' More frenetic conversation in Arabic.
- [smiling broadly] Fifteen minutes, sir!
I wasn't sure what was supposed to happen in fifteen minutes, and pointed out that it seemed like he had no idea where my clothes actually were?
- [more smiling] No problem, sir, fifteen minutes! No problem.
I went off to find dinner.

[an hour passes]
- [smiling broadly] Have you found my laundry?
- No problem, sir [more frenetic cell phone conversation]
- Yes, yes, in your room or down here?
- Doesn't matter

I give it another hour while sitting on the front deck, reading my book and chatting with Ali, my local 'fixer.' I finish, and, as a sign of good faith, head directly upstairs, instead of stopping by reception - the laundry might actually be there now, right? Of course not, back to reception. Another frenetic phone call. Why doesn't the laundry room (upstairs in the same building) have a land-line?
- Ok, ready - they'll bring it to your room.
- Ok
It's not like I actually have big plans for the night here in Hurghada, so I don't particularly need the laundry returned now, but I don't necessarily want to keep dealing with this. 15 minutes passes while I examine that thought, and a broadly-smiling 17-year old materializes outside my door with the familiar laundry bag. The price is 10 pounds (which is very good value, admittedly), I hand him over a 50 note and he runs off to get change. I check the laundry - sigh...

The smiling 17-year old returns with my change. I point out that the clothes aren't actually dry. He takes the bag, smiles some more, and promises to come back. I go back to lying on my bed, studying the universe, wondering what he's actually going to do...

Fifteen minutes later, I get another knock on the door - he's now smiling even more broadly and making vast, sweeping ironing motions with his free hand. I thank him, take the bag, and send him away. Five minutes later, as I'm hanging up my clothes (which are every bit as damp as they were fifteen minutes ago) all over my room, I conclude that the kid must have a learning disability.

This is Hurghada (I eventually decided to stay instead of taking the 14 hour bus ride to Sinai), I rather like Hurghada actually - it is only a slightly over-built under-planned resort, not a hideous neon-glazing monstrosity like Sharm el-Sheikh

The customer service, and the command of the English language, leave something to be desired though. That's not really unique to Hurghada though.

The waterfront on a nice calm day

Life Aquatic

There's a lot of little rays in the waters too

Swimmin' with the fishes

Ok, I can't resist - one more little nugget of fun in a Egyptian hotel... So, I returned to the room in the evening. I flipped on the light switch. Nothing happened. Odd - I could have sworn I had lights in here the other night? I turned on the light in the bathroom, examined the room, didn't see a light fixture. Very odd? I resumed introspection, and the waiting for the laundry. Five minutes later it hit me - that's right, I actually removed the light bulb myself the night before, prior to going to bed! Why? Well, rewinding some 22 hours...

I had just returned from the bus station, having decided that a 14 hour bus ride to Dahab would be stupid, so instead I was going to stay here in Hurghada and just dive this side of the Red Sea. The Thistlegorm wreck, the most famous dive site on the Red Sea, closer to the other side of the channel, would have to wait for another time. I brushed my teeth and turned the lights off, noting that they are using these high-tech, lower-power-consumption twisty light bulbs (pretty cool). So, I got in bed - something flashed. A few seconds later, something flashed again. What the? I studied the room for a moment - it flashed again. Weird... Pretty soon I divined that apparently, after you turn the power off, the high-tech, lower-power-consumption twisty light bulb continues to flash every few seconds here. I thought about static charges, capacitors, and college... then unscrewed the light bulb and went to sleep.

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